October 20th, 2017

The only way that Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish could, with a straight face, say that:

I truly believe that this is the best location for Amazon in the country.

it’s that he is either delusional, high or in full politician mode and pathologically lying.

Then you have to wonder, how much county time and taxpayer money was burned through assembling this ridiculous proposal. If the proposal ever actually sees the light of day—please, please, please some worker send Sam Allard a copy—I have no doubt that document won’t be worth even a comedy skit.

Note in the official city video of the event (TV20 Cleveland, what a laugh) that Budish points to the maybe 3,000 jobs coming in two proposed distribution centers that may come to Cleveland—I’ll wait for the ribbon cuttings to confirm—simply as jobs. Usually when politicians talk about jobs they do their best to, at least, append an adjective like good. No such adjective in Budish’s remarks because a you’d be hard pressed to find a worker in any of the existing Amazon warehouses willing to describe their job as good. How do I know? I know because I trust Mac McClelland’s journalism. Writing in I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave: My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine. for Mother Jones back in 2012, McClelland described her undercover job:

Picking books for Amalgamated has a disadvantage over picking dildos or baby food or Barbies, however, in that the shelving numbers don’t always line up. When my scanner tells me the book I need is on the lowest level in section 28 of a row, section 28 of the eye-level shelf of that row may or may not line up with section 28 of the lowest level. So when I spot eye-level section 28 and squat or kneel on the floor, the section 28 I’m looking for might be five feet to my right or left. Which means I have to stand up and crouch back down again to get there, greatly increasing the number of times I need to stand and crouch/kneel in a day. Or I can crawl. Usually, I crawl. A coworker is choosing the crouch/kneel option. “This gets so tiring after a while,” he says when we pass each other. He’s 20. It’s 9:07 a.m.

There are other disadvantages to working in books. In the summer, it’s the heat. Lots of the volumes are stored on the second and third floors of this immense cement box; the job descriptions we had to sign off on acknowledged that temperatures can be as low as 60 and higher than 95 degrees, and higher floors tend to be hotter. “They had to get fans because in the summer people were dying in here,” one of the supervisors tells us. The fans still blow now even though I’m wearing five shirts.


In the books sector, in the cold, in the winter dryness, made worse by the fans and all the paper, I jet across the floor in my rubber-soled Adidas, pant legs whooshing against each other, 30 seconds according to my scanner to take 35 steps to get to the right section and row and bin and level and reach for Diary of a Wimpy Kid and “FUCK!” A hot spark shoots between my hand and the metal shelving. It’s not the light static-electric prick I would terrorize my sister with when we got bored in carpeted department stores, but a solid shock, striking enough to make my body learn to fear it. I start inadvertently hesitating every time I approach my target. One of my coworkers races up to a shelving unit and leans in with the top of his body first; his head touches the metal, and the shock knocks him back. “Be careful of your head,” he says to me. In the first two hours of my day, I pick 300 items. The majority of them zap me painfully.

“Please tell me you have suggestions for dealing with the static electricity,” I say to a person in charge when the morning break comes. This conversation is going to cost me a couple of my precious few minutes to eat/drink/pee, but I’ve started to get paranoid that maybe it’s not good for my body to exchange an electric charge with metal several hundred times in one day.

“Oh, are you workin’ in books?”


“No. Sorry.” She means this. I feel bad for the supervisors who are trying their damnedest to help us succeed and not be miserable. “They’ve done everything they can”—”they” are not aware, it would appear, that anti-static coating and matting exist—”to ground things up there but there’s nothing you can do.”

Now, that was five years ago. Maybe Amazon has made changes. Maybe the expense of anti-static coating and matting was seen as a good idea.

Yeah, right. Unlike Armond Budish, I’m not delusional, high or a pathological liar.

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